National | Anti-Mandate

Protestors avoid Puke Ariki after manawhenua issue 'respect our whenua' statement

Photo credit:  Simon O'Connor/Stuff

Anti-mandate protestors have gathered on land near New Plymouth’s coastal walkway until “further notice” and have not followed through with a planned protest at Puke Ariki, after manawhenua issued a statement Friday that the area is wāhi tapu and must be respected.

"Ngāti Te Whiti hapū and Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa understand an occupation has been planned to take place at Puke Ariki Landing on Saturday 26 February.

"Puke Ariki is a wāhi tapu (sacred place) for Ngāti Te Whiti hapū and Te Atiawa iwi.  It has also become a special gathering place for the New Plymouth community.

"Ngāti Te Whiti hapū and Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa wish to make it clear that we will not support any negative behaviour which might affect the safety of our community or mana of our whenua or hapū and iwi.

"As manawhenua of Ngāmotu, we expect anyone participating in the Saturday event to be peaceful and respectful to our whenua and awa, Puke Ariki staff, and our community.  We do not support Puke Ariki Landing becoming the site of an occupation similar to that in Wellington."

While they said they "respect the right of New Zealanders to undertake peaceful protest", Ngāti Te Whiti and Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa called on "anyone participating on Saturday to respect our whenua and the rights of everyone to move freely and safely within our community".

On Friday afternoon, Destiny Church's Taranaki Freedoms and Rights Coalition shared the manawhenua statement on their Facebook page:

"Please read and share this statement to the wider Taranaki freedoms community.

"We at TFRC Taranaki are in full agreement that if any protest is to take place it needs to remain peaceful and respectful toward ALL people and the whenua.

“PEACE is our POWER.”

According to a Stuff report, protesters today opted for a different spot on land near the Wind Wand car park, understood to be owned by Ngāti Te Whiti Whenua Topu Trust and leased to New Plymouth District Council.

Early this afternoon, a group of about 30 had reportedly set up tents and flags, with Stuff saying a sign stationed near Saturday’s protest said the occupation would be in place until further notice, for potentially a month.